Cheering up David Zwartz – an invitation

By Leslie Bravery: The Jewish Federation of New Zealand's action in describing itself as “Jewish” rather than “Zionist” does not entirely disassociate the Federation from Israel's ideologically-driven war crimes and inhumanities.

In a May 14 interview with Dan Goldberg, published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, David Zwartz, a former president of the New Zealand Jewish Council, described the outlook for the Jewish community in New Zealand as qualified gloom. (The Haaretz article incorrectly reported him as calling it “qualified doom”.) Reflecting on the 66th anniversary of the unilateral declaration of the Zionist state of Israel, Zwartz, a recipient of the World Zionist Organisation’s Jerusalem Prize, said that, “Politically things are good for Jews but communally we are struggling.”

The interview was entitled New Zealand Commitment to Israel Fades Among 7000 Jews. According to David Zwartz, “Zionism has been out of fashion for 10-15 years.” The former honorary Israeli consul evidently still believes in Zionism though. In his opinion, “There’s less cohesion in the New Zealand community because of the turning away from Zionism.” He blames that on a “reaction to unpopular [Israeli government] policies.” Zwartz, a former president of the New Zealand Jewish Council, said that the Zionist Federation of New Zealand “continues in name only.” A new organisation, the Jewish Federation of New Zealand, replaces the word “Zionist” with “Jewish”.

The Jewish Federation of New Zealand's action in describing itself as “Jewish” rather than “Zionist” does not entirely disassociate the Federation from Israel's ideologically-driven war crimes and inhumanities. Indeed, the substitution of “Jewish” for “Zionist”, while failing to condemn Israel, is likely to offend still further the growing number of Jewish people who actually repudiate the ideology. While Zionism claims to represent all Jews world-wide, no ideology can, of course, ever represent a whole people. This is especially so with regard to Zionism whose purpose, as the record sadly proves, has brought so much suffering and injustice.

It is no wonder, as Zwartz's interviewer noted, “that openly identifying as a Zionist in New Zealand is unpopular.” Yet, Zwartz insists, according to Goldberg, that the vast majority of Kiwi Jews still support Zionism; it's simply that now it's passive. In the interview, David Zwartz comments, “that’s very different to being actively involved in community activities relating to Zionism or things that might publicly identify them as Zionist because that’s the unpopular thing within the wider New Zealand community”.

But what David Zwartz fails to address is why this should be. He offers not one word of criticism about the ideology itself. State-promoted ideologies have a history of going out of fashion, but only after they have wreaked immeasurable harm on innocent victims. And they are not the only ones harmed; the very people that the ideologies claim to represent are actually betrayed and misled. The all-pervasive ideological propaganda attempts to justify injustice while making it appear 'fashionable'. Perhaps the “gloom” that the despondent David Zwartz senses, would evaporate if the Jewish community here were to look beyond Zionism to the more positive aspects of a shared humanity. There are plenty of wonderful and courageous examples of commitment to justice and international law demonstrated by members of the wider world Jewish community. Such a sense of purpose could do wonders to dispel despondency.

At a recent demonstration in London, two women stood side by side displaying placards that described the effect of Zionism upon their lives. One of the placards read:

“I am a Palestinian born in Jerusalem, exiled in 1967. Palestine is my homeland. I cannot return there.”
The other stated:

“I am a British Jew born in Lancashire. Israel/Palestine is not my homeland but under Israel's laws of 'return' I can settle there.

A British MP, Michael McCann, speaking at an International Development Committee hearing concerning Israeli Occupied Palestinian territory, made the following comment on UNWRA's definition of Palestinian refugees: “We met with young people, Palestinian refugees in Jordan, and one of the things that disturbed me is that when the question was put to them 'would you want to return to Palestine?' they said yes, which creates for me a problem in my mind. You know, these kinds of numbers could never be incorporated into that small piece of land.” That opinion prompted Elizabeth Morley, Secretary of the Aberystwyth Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), to write to Michael McCann, in part, as follows:

“Is it not ironic that millions of Jews from all around the world are invited to claim Israeli citizenship, even if they end up, not in Israel, but in an illegal settlement on Palestinian land? They can do this simply because of their religion. I wonder how many more of them will be able to fit into that small piece of land. With my Jewish heritage I too could claim Israeli citizenship. How ridiculous is that! Although I have a good life here in the UK I could go over there and make use of the privileges that are denied to the Palestinians whose land I would be occupying. I might even be given the house and possessions of a Palestinian family freshly displaced from East Jerusalem. And all the time the Palestinian refugees, turfed out to make room for me and millions like me, are mouldering in refugee camps.”

Miko Peled[1], the ex-Israeli Army son of a celebrated Zionist general, describes in his book The General's Son how, following the death of a beloved niece in a suicide bombing, he made the long painful journey away from his Zionist upbringing to an understanding of the harm done by the ideology. And in her record of personal involvement A Witness in Palestine , the Jewish-American author Anna Baltzer[2] tells how she experienced for herself the cruel realities of Israeli military occupation and the sometimes petty meanness that alternated with greater war crimes. She decided to find out for herself after she had heard from families “. . . of past and present military attacks, house demolitions, land confiscation, imprisonment without trial, and torture.” She wrote that, “It seemed that these actions were not carried out for the protection of Jewish people, but rather for the creation and expansion of a Jewish state at the expense of the rights, lives, and dignity of the non-Jewish people living in the region.”

The signatories to Israel's 14 May 1948 Declaration of Independence, identified themselves thus:
“. . . We members of the People's Council, representatives of the Jewish Community of Eretz-Israel and of the Zionist movement . . .”

This identification with Zionism is the source of the extremism that Israel and its settlers practice. Israel's present policies are not the result, as some people claim, of a lurch to the right by the present leadership. Zionism introduced to the Middle East modern terrorist methods and, later, nuclear weapons. From Deir Yassin to Operation Cast Lead, Zionism has made its philosophy abundantly clear.
Today, around the world, Jewish citizens play their part as equal citizens, neither discriminating against others nor being discriminated against. So why not in Palestine/Israel? We invite all who doubt the truth of the above to at least read the evidence presented by Miko Peled and Anna Baltzer. And then there are the voices of Miriam Margolyes, Alexei Sayle, Albert Einstein (letter to the New York Times concerning Menachem Begin) . . . and many, many more.

All of us, non-Jewish and Jewish alike, who campaign for world leaders to demand that Israel respect the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, would wholeheartedly welcome your support.